Thursday, June 16, 2016

A fish searches for Mom and Dad

Finding Dory is a sweet little sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo.

Suffice it to say that although Finding Dory, the latest animated feature from the Disney/Pixar alliance, lacks the freshness of its predecessor, Finding Nemo, and although it wears its "you-can-do-it" message with all the subtlety of a political yard sign, it's entertaining and touching enough to garner well-deserved attention.

This time, Nemo and his dad Marlin (Hayden Rolence and Albert Brooks) are relegated to supporting roles as Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) tries to reunite with her long-lost parents.

Dory, you'll recall from the first movie, is a blue tang fish with short-term memory problems: Dory's disability causes her to be separated from her parents at the movie's outset. Can Dory ever remember enough to find her way home, home symbolizing all that is safe and good in the world of Disney?

Along the way, Dory meets a variety of new characters who become like a new family. These include Hank the octopus (Ed O'Neill), Bailey the whale (Ty Burrell), and a shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson). None of these characters are groundbreakers, but they're all serviceable and sometimes amusing.

Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton provide voices for Dory's parents.

The movie follows Dory as she travels to waters off the California coast. Once there, she discovers The Marine Life Institute, a facility where ocean life is rescued before being sent to an aquarium in Cleveland or returned to the ocean.

Directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane offer the best visual diversions when the movie plumbs ocean depths.

The filmmakers also make a few bows to ecological issues; the closer Dory and friends get to shore, the more dangerous life seems to become. Images of debris-littered waters send a reminder about human carelessness when it comes to natural life.

The movie culminates with an action-oriented finale that feels overly cartoonish and anti-climactic, especially considering that it occurs after Dory reunites with her parents. It's likely, though, that the movie's primary audience -- i.e., kids -- won't care.

Dory's overall sweetness, its colorful ocean environments and its fine, jokey use of a recognizable voice (no, I'm not telling) make it a worthwhile dip into summer waters.

Predatory aspects of natural life in the ocean, by the way, mostly are avoided.

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